Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Cultural Difference

After grad life, now working in a company most of time with Americans, staying with an American family, using public transport daily has brought me more close to the American culture, the western way of thinking. There are still many things to imbibe, but some cultural differences between us and these western people are prominent.

Independence, thanks to technology, is what is seen in every American. And now I realize it has many shades. Every person, be a man or a woman, a kid or an old one, a fit or a disabled, can live his entire life on his own. Buses have ramps for disabled to get in, traffic light ped crossings have radio records for blind to help cross, every house has a garage and tools to fix their own vehicle, and internet is everywhere; these people hardly feel a need to interact. Every person has an i-gadget in his ear, a kindle in his hands and a smart phone with data plan activated. They hardly care to come out of their world.

Good thing is you are independent. You don't need anyone to help you do your daily chores. You are free. No one would care if you do stupid dancing on roads or if you kiss your girlfriend at the train station. You don't need to ask around if you are lost, you will have a GPS or an i-phone to see directions. But.. it disconnects people. This disconnects families. A father thinks his son has to leave his house when he is 16 as he thinks "his mother still feeds his a** and after he leaves my house I would spend that money to buy a Porsche" And a kid thinks "I don't have to stay with them, I earn, I have money, and a girlfriend, I can afford to rent a place. So why should I rely on them!" As a result, kids stay with their girlfriend(s), and old people are transferred to old age homes. But there is no regret as nothing changes in their lives, they have all the tools to live their life independently and happily (?).

In contrast, we have grown in a culture where we stay together. We are emotionally attached and kids feel a sense of responsibility towards their parents. The culture in which we are brought up, we tend to take care of our parents when they grow old. When I communicated these thoughts with a fellow American, he was surprised, and felt great about the culture in which people are brought up a few thousand miles far.

I am surprised when I see that every American can fix his car in his house, and does not have to go to a garage. Come to think of it, it’s due to high labor charges here. If they quote me $50 to fix brakes on my $80 bike, I would refer to google and fix it myself. On the other hand, I will easily give Rs5 to a Puncturewala in Pune and get my punctured tire fixed. These guys are surprised when I tell them we have a doodhwala that brings us milk every morning, we have a maid that daily comes and cleans the house and even when I tell that we get the newspaper in hardcopy. They are used to read e-versions.

Within a family everything is "ours" in India whereas here, its "mine" or "yours". The other day I was talking to a collogue during lunch and said "in my house back in India.....". He was surprised and asked me if I owned a house! People here always distinguish between "my house" and "my dad's house". Similarly, within a house, its "my car" and "my dad's car" where as in India its "our car". These people respect privacy to such an extent that my landlady asks her mom for permission to use her car, or to put a couple of her clothes in a washing machine with her mom's.

There are so many more things. But the bottom line is, is it solely the technology and infrastructure that has facilitated this upbringing? With technological advances in India, will we see an Americanized India in a few decades? I hope we consciously imbibe all the positive aspects of technological advances, keeping our emotional attachment, and our strong cultural values intact.